Get real about fighting meth

Methamphetamine would be a scourge if it hurt only those who ingested it. But the harm is far more widespread than that.

Highly mobile and as compact as a large soft-drink bottle, the meth-making process creates a risk of toxic exposure, respiratory injury and fire to all who come close.

The victims of meth-making in Kentucky include children and law enforcement personnel.

The unique public health and environmental threats posed by this illegal drug are why we support reinstating a prescription requirement for obtaining cold medicines that include meth precursors such as pseudoephedrine.

A move to require a prescription for meth precursors was blocked by a well-funded wall of opposition from the over-the-counter drug industry during this year's legislature.

The Consumer Healthcare Products Association, which represents non-prescription drug companies, spent $343,777 on lobbying, including $300,000 for phone banks to fuel opposition to the bill.

A prescription requirement will be introduced again when the legislature convenes in January by Rep. Linda Belcher, D-Shepherdsville, but with a few changes that should make it more palatable to the public.

Medicines in the form of gel caps would be excluded from the prescription requirement because it's hard to extract the precursors from gel caps. Also, the requirement would sunset in three years to give everyone a chance to assess its effects and give Kentuckians a chance to adjust to the 130 cold and allergy medicines that cannot be put to use in meth labs.

Meanwhile, Rep. Brent Yonts, D-Greenville, recently held a Capitol new conference to unveil what he called a compromise approach. Yonts' bill would create a state registry of meth-related offenders and block them from purchasing medicines that contain meth precursors without a prescription.

Yonts says his approach would punish criminals, not law-abiding Kentuckians, who just happen to suffer from colds and allergies.

Unfortunately, there's no reason to think that Yonts' bill would make a dent in methamphetamine production.

Meth cookers could find plenty of "smurfers" who have no criminal records to make the buys of over-the-counter drugs for them. It also seems to be asking a lot of pharmacists to police who can and can't buy a legal drug, possibly having to say "no" to convicted criminals.

Giving the prescription requirement a three-year try, as Belcher is proposing, is a much more realistic response to the public health and environmental hazards created by meth production.